Revised Open Meetings Act regulations now in effectScott Rothschild
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday that revisions to the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now in effect.
Under Kansas law, citizens have the right to observe many meetings, including school board meetings, where decisions are made. At a minimum, boards are required to provide notice of meetings to the local media and allow citizens to attend those meetings in person. Many boards also broadcast their meetings via local-access cable TV, Facebook Live or other media platforms.
Gov. Laura Kelly on March 12 announced a state of emergency In response the the COVID-19 outbreak. The proclamation included a provision releasing governmental entities from strict compliance with open-meetings regulations if those regulations would counteract public health orders.
Schmidt announced on March 20 that he was seeking revisions to the KOMA law to ensure that the public could continue to observe local government meetings, including school board meetings, while also complying with mandated restrictions on public gatherings. The proposed revisions were approved Wednesday by the State Rules and Regulations Board and can be found here.
Public bodies subject to the KOMA law must “take any actions as necessary and reasonable under the circumstances of the emergency declaration to advance the state’s policy that ‘meetings for the conduct of governmental affairs and transaction of governmental business be open to the public,’ ” Schmidt said Wednesday.
Schmidt’s office also released a list of Best Practices for publicizing meetings, including but not limited to:
- As early as possible before the meeting, give notice of the meeting and whether it will be conducted solely by “interactive communication” or in person but with limited physical access;
- Post agenda packets and presentations to the district website;
- Audio or video recording the meeting, excluding any executive session discussions, and post on the school district’s website;
- As soon as possible after the meeting, post the meeting minutes.
The meeting notice must be disseminated by “any means calculated to bring its contents to the attention of the general public” including but not limited to:
- The school district’s website;
- Local news media;
- Through the district’s social media channels;
- An email to “likely interested parties;”
- Any other means likely to cause notice to the public.
Multiple methods should be used whenever possible.
District-specific questions about complying with the revised KOMA regulations may be directed to any KASB attorney.